The Issue & Opportunity
In offshore markets there is growing concern that many existing land management practices for food production are releasing additional carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. If it can be demonstrated that in New Zealand the production of kiwifruit can maintain or increase carbon storage in the soil then this may allow greater differentiation of our products in environmentally concerned markets such as Europe. The New Zealand government and regional councils are under ever increasing pressure from international treaties and taxpayers to improve their environmental stewardship. We believe good carbon storage management within orchard systems will be recognised as a progressive step in environmental management. This will lower the risks of more environmental legislation that will result in compliance costs and less entrepreneurial flexibility. The project will quantify how much the environment benefits from different carbon storage management systems in kiwifruit orchards. This will also provide good stewardship for the environment.
We expect that higher soil carbon contents increase the soils ability to filter excessive amounts of nutrients and contaminants; reduce the run-off of nutrients and erosion; act as a net sink for greenhouse gases and reduce the need for precious water resources. Regional Councils have already started to monitor soil carbon contents in the sense of soil health and its environmental benefits.
Currently, there is no standard methodology to verify any claims of carbon storage in kiwifruit orchards that might be needed in future stewardship initiatives or to participate in carbon trading schemes.
This project will quantify the change in cost efficiency of production in kiwifruit orchard systems with different carbon management practices. We expect that higher soil carbon contents will:
• Reduce the production costs for New Zealand kiwifruit growers;
• Enhance the soils function to store water;
• Enhance the soils function to store plant nutrients;
• Enhance the soils function to mineralise nitrogen;
• Lead to improved productivity and efficiency of input use;
• Use less energy for irrigation and fertilizer application.
We also expect that higher soil carbon content will reduce the cost of pest and disease control. Soils with higher carbon contents have more macro-pores, resulting in better aeration of wet or irrigated soils, and therefore safeguard against the occurrence of root diseases such as Armillaria sp.
This project will quantify the carbon footprint of the orchard phase of different carbon management systems. We expect that higher soil carbon contents increase the cost efficiency of kiwifruit production. This in turn is equivalent to lower energy and resource use per unit of product and leads to a smaller carbon footprint. A low carbon footprint might in the near future become a means to enter specific markets or to maintain price premiums.
Therefore, New Zealand kiwifruit growers could adapt a specific set of carbon-storage management practices as one of several possible strategies to achieve a lower carbon footprint. The quantification we propose will eliminate ‘green-wash’. In future, with markets that trade carbon, New Zealand kiwifruit growers may well profit directly from carbon sequestered in their soils.